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Resting Kevin Garnett wasn't nearly enough. The Boston Celtics would've had to sit Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, too, to make this a fair fight.
Pierce scored 24 points in 28 minutes and the Celtics quickly turned a mismatch on paper into just that on the court, beating the New Jersey Nets 111-87 on Wednesday night.
Allen added 15 points and Rajon Rondo had 11 points and 14 assists for the Celtics, who are playing without All-Star Garnett (right knee) and reserve Rasheed Wallace (sore left foot), but didn't need them in a matchup of one of the NBA's top teams and by far its worst.
Boston made 10 of its first 11 shots and barely slowed up from there, building a 36-point lead during its highest-scoring first half of the season and cruising to its 11th straight victory over the Nets (3-35).
"We needed to get off to a good start and that's what we talked about before the game began," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "With a tough back-to-back coming and we're down on bodies, a team that's been struggling, our whole thought was if we can get off to a good start maybe we could get other guys rest. It all came on the defensive end first and then the ball movement in the first half was as good as we can get."
Yi Jianlian scored 19 points and Brook Lopez had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Nets, who lost their sixth straight and were as far away from the Celtics on the court as they are in the standings.
"They came out and hit first and for those two quarters, we didn't hit back," Nets point guard Devin Harris said. "They hit open jump shots, they got in the paint, they drove. They pretty much got whatever they wanted. We didn't take a stand on the defensive end. To give up 70 points in a half, it's tough to win any game."
Boston had struggled lately, mostly without Garnett, and lost five of eight. The Celtics were back in their dominant form in this one, giving their starters plenty of rest before a game Thursday against Chicago, the team that pushed them to seven games in a thrilling first-round series last season.
"This team, we've been very resilient all year, no matter who, or how, or what," Ray Allen said. "You go out and get ready for the game, everybody knows what the game plan is and win or loss, the next game you've got to bounce back."
The Celtics already had 20 points by the midway point of the first quarter and went nearly five minutes between their first and second missed shots, both by Brian Scalabrine, who is starting for Garnett. Boston didn't have a player other than Scalabrine miss until Glen Davis was off on a layup with 2:35 left in the period.
Boston led 38-22 after one, and the second quarter was even more lopsided. A sensational alley-oop from Pierce to Tony Allen, who soared in from the baseline to catch the high pass to slam it down, was the highlight of the Celtics' 14 of 20 shooting effort. Meanwhile, New Jersey was 3 of 17 (18 percent) in the period.
"We've got the Bulls coming in, they're playing pretty well of late, and it was just important we got a win, regardless of how we did it," Pierce said. "We know Jersey's been struggling, so we want to keep them struggling."
Pierce appeared to land awkwardly after he was fouled with 5:55 left, but he stayed in to make the free throws, then nailed a 3-pointer that made it 55-27. Ray Allen was left all alone for a layup off an inbound pass as time expired, giving the Celtics a fifth double-figure scorer and a 71-35 bulge.
A frustrated Harris then let his teammates have it at in the locker room.
"Everybody was pretty upset at halftime. Devin was pretty upset," Nets forward Chris Douglas-Roberts said. "(Coach Kiki Vandeweghe) came in with a speech basically saying we've got to turn things around. Devin, it wasn't a speech. He was just letting off some frustration. It was good. It was the first time I've seen him let of frustration like that. I'd rather see that."
This program aired on January 14, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.
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